Lianna D’Alessandro finally returned home to Canberra in February this year, having spent eight months in the Westmead Children’s Hospital in Sydney with her young son Dante.
Dante was diagnosed with a rare form of paediatric cancer at just five months old, and had to endure various types of chemotherapy. And boredom.
“Dante stayed in bed all day and didn’t have much to work with, aside from a handful of toys and an iPad,” Lianna says.
“I realised this was taking a huge toll on him developmentally as he wasn’t reaching his milestones and couldn’t sit independently. I also knew that so many other children would be in similar situations.”
She left, determined to create a solution.
Lianna has since launched Canberra-based e-commerce child developmental toy brand ‘Ohh Dante’, just in time for the Christmas rush.
The products, made from low-toxic, BPA-free materials like silicone or wood, include coloured stackable blocks and puzzles, and are inspired by “Montessori philosophy”.
“Basically Montessori is a theory where children learn from one step at a time,” Lianna explains.
“So you would compare that to a toy that has buttons and flashing lights, but where those toys actually do all the work for them. With Montessori toys, children actually have to manipulate the objects and use hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills.”
As for the name, this was inspired by the phrase uttered by many nurses as they entered Dante’s hospital room.
“Despite being sick at the time, Dante could always brighten up the room with his bright and infectious energy,” Lianna says.
Lianna was put up in Ronald McDonald House during Dante’s treatment, so wanted to incorporate a charitable aspect into her business model too.
“I wanted to set up something where I could donate items to children from all walks of life, including those who have medical issues, lower socioeconomic circumstances, and much more,” she says.
The toys range in price from $12 to $59 for a ‘Dino Feeding Set’, and Lianna uses the profit to donate items to charities like Ronald McDonald House in Sydney and Canberra, as well as other organisations supporting families dealing with cancer.
“Every time someone makes a purchase, it allows me to donate to organisations who support children in hospital, or children with special needs and support to the parents who carry a load of these struggles every day.”
Lianna was working full-time in the public service, but has scaled this back to part-time to allow for her work on Ohh Dante.
“I had to take into consideration that after the treatment was all over, I had my work set out for me to build on Dante’s skills including all things fine motor, balance, and speech,” she says.
“I knew that it would not be possible to go back to my corporate job and my priority was to work with Dante.”
Dante, now nine months cancer-free, along with his three-year-old brother Thiago, serve as the unofficial toy testers for Ohh Dante.
“Both my boys absolutely love the toys,” Lianna says.
“My oldest boy is a problem-solving genius and really thrives when given complex tasks.”
Original Article published by James Coleman on Riotact.